Interim president Juan Guaido held a rally this afternoon in Caracas, where he spoke to supporters about his vision for a post-Maduro Venezuela and took questions from national and international media.
Guaido began his speech by dedicating a movement of silence for the victims of the week’s violence, which has so far claimed as many as 29 lives. He then spoke about the events of January 23, which he called a key moment in Venezuelan history. On the importance of the day, Guaido said:
Venezuela awoke to make her dreams come true. Not just that our youth, our relatives and friends will come back, but that food will return to our tables.
Guaido was asked at several points in the question-and-answer period after his speech whether he has had contact with officials from the ruling PSUV party, and whether he is willing to negotiate with anyone inside the regime. Guaido said:
Any official who wants to side with the constitution… will be welcomed [to dialogue].
On the opposition’s next steps, Guaido announced two events: rallies across the country tomorrow, and an information campaign on Sunday. For the information campaign, Guaido explained, Venezuelans are being asked to print out the new amnesty law that would protect any regime official who actively works to restore democratic order in Venezuela from prosecution. The idea of Sunday’s event will be for Venezuelans to distribute the printed version of the law to soldiers and their relatives to spread the word.
Asked if he fears for his life, Guaido named some of the opposition politicians who have been killed, imprisoned or exiled over the past several years in Venezuela. He then asked rhetorically if that repression had worked, and added:
[The regime] can cut down a flower, but they will never stop the spring
Maduro Gives Own Speech
At around the same time that Guaido spoke, Maduro gave his own speech.
During the question-and-answer period, Maduro condemned the opposition protesters who have taken to the streets of the country this week, saying:
Venezuela’s path cannot fall in the hands of thieves and thugs.
Asked about the possibility of a U.S. invasion, Maduro said that the country was ready to defend itself if Washington “wants to go crazy”, and that the Venezuelan army has “the highest professionalism” of any armed force on the planet.
Rodriguez Shows Alleged Evidence of Secret PSUV/Guaido Meeting
During a televised press conference late this afternoon, Minister of Communication Jorge Rodriguez showed what he called evidence that interim president Juan Guaido had met in secret with representatives from the ruling PSUV party in a Caracas hotel on January 22.
The short clip was allegedly recorded by a security camera in a hotel in Caracas.
Below, the moment in which Rodriguez showed the clip on television:
Rodriguez: … Diosdado Cabello and Freddy Bernal. And then, if we move the video forward a bit–stop, stop there. Go back a bit. Go back. Stop. And there, dressed like an [unintelligible], dressed like a terrorist, that’s interim deputy [sic] Juan Guaido on January 22 2019 at 11:05 PM, according to the security cameras…
Venezuelans reacted to Rodriguez’s tenuous evidence with mockery, and #GuaidoChallenge was quickly trending nationally on Twitter. The hashtag was used by users to “report” other sightings of Guaido. Below, a sample of these images:
Reuters: Russian Mercenaries Arrive in Venezuela
Reuters reported this afternoon that as many as 400 Kremlin-linked mercenaries may have arrived in Venezuela over the past several weeks under the pretext of providing security for Maduro. The mercenaries are “associated” with a notorious firm called Wagner Group, and–if the report is true–this would constitute the group’s “first known deployment in the western hemisphere”.
According to Reuters, the mercenaries began arriving in Venezuela earlier this month. Citing information from three different sources, Reuters reported that while the number of mercenaries in the country is unknown, it ranges from “small groups” to as many as 400.
According to the article:
Russia’s Defence Ministry and Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not respond to requests for comment about the contractors. But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We have no such information.”
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